An ex-convict from Ocean County has been sentenced to 22 years in state prison for killing a man during a drug deal, authorities said.
John T. Mullen, Jr., 51, of Seaside Heights was sentenced on an aggravated manslaughter charge on Monday by Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan.
Mullen tried to steal Xanax from a 33-year-old Manchester man during a failed drug deal on Oct. 20, 2019, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer.
Thomas J. Applegate was found dead near the entrance to Surf & Stream Campground in Manchester Township, Billhimer said.
Mullen pleaded guilty before Judge Ryan in September. Prosecutors asked for a 30-year state prison sentence at the time.
About 6 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2019, Manchester police found a body lying in the campground's entrance driveway
Applegate had been fatally stabbed in the chest, Billhimer said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation by Billhimer's High Tech Crime Unit, Manchester police and the Ocean County Sheriff's Department concluded that Mullen stabbed Applegate during a drug deal.
Mullen was additionally charged with robbery, tampering with evidence and possessing heroin, authorities said.
Mullen served more than two years in state prison on fencing, forgery and shoplifting convictions before being released in the spring of 2019, authorities have said.
“The law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation – through sheer hard work and resolve - swiftly identified Mullen as the individual responsible for Mr. Applegate’s death and quickly brought him into custody,” Billhimer said. “The exceptional teamwork displayed by these law enforcement professionals has brought about a lengthy state prison sentence for Mullen, which may, as Judge Ryan pointed out, effectively result in a life sentence given this defendant’s age and longstanding history of substance abuse.”
Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco and Assistant Prosecutor Alyssa Mandara handled the case.
Mullen has been held in Ocean County Jail.
“We hope this sentence affords the family of Mr. Applegate some level of peace and closure,” Billhimer said.
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